He's defended some of the highest profile murderers... like Dana Ewell, convicted of killing his entire family in 1992 and Paul Hurth the Fresno police officer who killed his lover's husband in 2000 during a crime of passion.
Action News visited Kinney last week where he was passing time listening to his favorite music as he wraps up his first round of chemotherapy in the Bay Area. Right now, he's buying time because there's no registered bone marrow donor who can save his life.
"It's really hard for me right now because I have no match. So the next option is to go to Minnesota and the new thing is as babies are being born, they're cutting the umbilical cords. And they take the stuff out of the cord and use that," said Kinney.
Friday, his courthouse colleagues set up a blood and bone marrow drive in his honor, many local judges and court employees were instrumental in helping out.
"I've known Mr. Kinney for probably 15 years or more and he's been a very colorful and dynamic member of the bar and I was saddened to learn of his illness," said Judge Stephen Kane.
While he takes on leukemia, many of his cases are being set back or other lawyers, are stepping in- but for clients it's not the same. There is only one Ernie Kinney.
"They are more concerned with him and a lot of them have been patient and willing to wait hoping that he'll return," said defense attorney Mike Idiart.
Kinney's treatment is so aggressive and intense that 15 to 20 percent of patients don't even make it through chemotherapy. But Kinney's doctors say he's different- and they recognized that almost instantly.
"Ernest Kinney is full of life, full of life and full of energy. He keeps the whole team happy. He keeps the whole team laughing and it's really been great working with him. This is the type of attitude that you need when undergoing these treatments. He will certainly get through all these treatments because one he has the will to do it and he has a wonderful attitude," said one of Kinney's doctors, Dr. Thomas Martin.
Even with a great outlook, there are setbacks- earlier this week pneumonia and a colon infection had doctors very concerned.
Kinney is approaching leukemia much like he takes on a new client facing charges of murder.
"So the odds are low, but you know I've always said on every murder case I've done, if I have even a 10 percent change to win, I think I can win it," said Kinney.
Foot rubs from his niece, a handmade quilt from his family and partial ocean view from his room, makes hospital stays more tolerable- plus the constant mail from well wishers.
"I know the battle will be tough, but you're tougher. My thoughts and prayers are with you, your wife and family. Dan Robinson. That's pretty neat," said Kinney as he read a card.
Kinney has known for two years leukemia lurked in his body. 30 days ago the disease attacked his white blood cells, forcing him to finally confront it head on.
"You just can't have the good things happen and turn around and say why me. Of course, I want to see my grandkids, of course I want that life. But the quality of life is more important. And if I can have a quality of life that's decent, then that's o-k," said Kinney.